SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - North Korea has proposed military talks with South Korea to discuss border disputes, the South Korean Defense Ministry said on Thursday, in another sign that the North is reaching out to its rival after months of acrimony.

North Korea proposed working-level military talks to discuss preventing naval clashes along the disputed western sea border, ministry officials said. Another topic the North said it wanted to discuss was leaflets sent across the border by South Korean activists that urged North Koreans to rise up against their leader, Kim Jong Il.

Relations between the Koreas have cooled since President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul in early 2008. They deteriorated further after a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank in March near the disputed border, in what Seoul and Washington say was a North Korean torpedo attack. Forty-six sailors were killed. The North denied the accusation and demonstrated its displeasure by firing artillery in the border waters.

In recent weeks, however, the North has made some conciliatory gestures. It freed the crew of a seized South Korean fishing boat and offered to resume reunions of families separated by the Korean War.

South Korea has welcomed the moves and responded by offering humanitarian aid for the victims of severe floods in North Korea.

The military talks, if they are held, will be the first in almost two years. But Seoul remains wary of what it considers the North Korean tactic of following up provocative acts with offers of talks to win concessions.